Montana State University Billings is seeing enrollment gains with part-time students and City College attendees, but those gains aren't enough to stop declines in full-time students.

The university released its spring enrollment figures Thursday, touting an increase in the number of people attending classes. This semester, there are 4,299 students at MSUB and City College combined, compared to 4,122 during the spring of 2017.

Those gains came largely from dual enrollment programs with high school students. That program has grown substantially in two years and now has 611 high school students involved. There were 413 dual-enrollment students last spring.

A closer look at data not included in the university's press release shows that the number of full-time equivalent students at MSUB continues to decline. A similar story emerged in enrollment figures from last fall.

That means that while more people are attending MSUB, they are mostly part-time students. And those part-time students' combined credit hours don't translate into the equivalent of more full-time students.

For example, MSUB data show that City College gained 202 students this spring when compared to the spring of 2017. Still, the college lost the equivalent of 16 full-time students over the same period.

The university uses the full-time equivalent, or FTE, metric in budgeting.

There are actually fewer students attending the MSUB main campus this semester. Combined FTE count is also down for both MSUB and City College compared to last spring.

MSUB planned for gains in part-time students, and Thursday's numbers exceeded the school's initial projection for the spring 2018 semester.

"We continue to see an increasing number of part-time students as many are employed in our community," said MSUB Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance Trudy Collins in a release. "We have planned our enrollment targets based on this trend."

MSUB also reported on Thursday that enrollment increased at the College of Allied Health Professionals, which included a 45-percent jump in undergraduate students.

MSUB and City College saw a 15-percent increase in Hispanic students, and the MSUB main campus saw a 21-percent increase in Native American students, the university said.

"I'm pleased to see the growth in diversity of our student body at both campuses," said Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joe Oravecz in a release.

Budget ties

The declining FTE figures come at a time of budget cuts for the Montana University System. In January, the Board of Regents approved reductions of more than $4 million over two years.

The cuts are part of reductions throughout state government, which the Montana Legislature passed during a fall special session.

MSUB's share of the cuts is $478,924 through 2019, including $235,889 for the current fiscal year.

Collins said in an email statement to The Gazette that unfilled position vacancies created "temporary budget savings" to account for this year's cuts. 

There is a tentative plan for next year, Collins said.

"It does not involve employee layoffs," she said in an email statement. "We continue to align our instructional and support expenditures with our current and projected enrollment levels."